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On Gluttony-Chapter 52:Religious and Philosophical Responses to the Obesity Epidemic

Elsevier Inc.
DOI: 10.1016/b978-0-12-374387-9.00052-0
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Science


Publisher Summary This chapter describes gluttony and the connection between gluttony and obesity. While modern individuals are far more concerned with obesity than gluttony, in the ancient and medieval world this concern was reversed. This chapter also explains the rationale that lay behind our ancestors' intolerance of gluttony: Catholic theologians worried that gluttony would get in the way of worshipping God (and would therefore result in gluttons being consigned to hell), and ancient philosophers worried that unless people could overcome their gluttonous tendencies, they would be unlikely to have a good life. This suggests that one way to deal with the obesity epidemic is to restore the concept of gluttony to its former prominence: convince people to overcome their gluttony, and you will go far toward preventing and reversing obesity. This suggestion, however, is not very practical, inasmuch as people are unlikely to take to heart the recommendations of priests and philosophers to eat less. Although gluttony is arguably the root cause of the obesity epidemic, it seems unlikely that we will be able to curb the epidemic in the obvious way—by trying to convince people to overcome their gluttony and, more generally, to master their desires.

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